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After years of significant wildfires across the front range of Colorado, Wildland Restoration Volunteers (WRV) began work on fire restoration projects. Sarah Groenwald, a 20-year-old student at Colorado State University, worked on these projects as a volunteer, and for her efforts was awarded a $500 TakeAction education funding awards from State Farm. Groenwald is one of ten middle school through college age students selected from almost 40 applicants to receive the TakeAction wildfire risk reduction community service project award for her efforts to curb the risk of wildfires in her community.
Groenwald has worked with WRV for four seasons in various roles. This year she was an intern and project leader for a fuels reduction project at Ben Delatour Scout Ranch. In this project, certified sawyers cut down trees to create buffer zones in an effort to reduce the likelihood and intensity of fires. Volunteers also assisted in removing dropped logs out of the treatment area. As a project leader, Groenwald was responsible for recruitment, site visits, interacting with landowners, sending out project updates, running briefings and managing crews in the field, among other tasks.
She was inspired to get involved with wildfire work after witnessing the impact fire can have before and after a blaze.
“I was in high school in Boulder when the Fourmile fire came through,” Groenwald said. “A lot of people I knew were evacuated and unsure of what would happen to their homes. I later did work on a couple projects following the High Park fire in Fort Collins where I saw first-hand the insane destruction that wildfires can have.”
Groenwald said that their work helped protect the Elk Creek watershed and the Scout Ranch, allowing for more boy scouts to enjoy the outdoors and learn about protecting natural lands. “I could not be happier with the outcome and impact of the project,” she said. She is already working with the program director to schedule more fuels-related projects for next season.
“The more we work to make the high-risk areas safe from destructive wildfires, the less uncertainty people will have surrounding the safety of their homes,” she said, “and there will be less to rebuild in a fire’s wake.”